Skillet attempt to make a more connected album in the band’s ninth album Unleashed.
Being called a panhead to some may sound like an odd insult, but for many in the rock scene it’s a description for fans of Skillet, a band led by John Cooper who since 1996 has been working the old fashioned way with consistent touring and albums releases that gained more and more recognition and radio play over time, which led to two Grammy nominations and millions of album sales worldwide.
Now in 2016, Skillet will release their 9th full album Unleashed. Many people who are familiar with the band know not only about their strong religious beliefs but also that Skillet have a very unique electronic style mixed in with hard rock elements. Synthesized instruments, backup female vocals and a lot of motivational inciting style lyrics are common in the band’s music. Unleashed is the next attempt at using those elements while still connecting with their fans. As described by John Cooper: “I wanted to make an album that could make people feel the music. I always aim to write songs to which people can relate, but this time I wanted to see not only how the songs would connect lyrically, but also how they’d connect musically.”
Hearing that a band wants to put out an album that feels connected throughout and flows from beginning to end has been, in my experience, a quality of great albums in the past. It takes more effort to make songs interconnected with each other in different elements as opposed to a tracklist of good studio recordings. Skillet has had a knack over the years for creating energetic and motivating songs. There is a livewire feeling that carries the track and it makes their music feel engaging. The album opener Feel Invincible has elements in that and is a good example of what to expect in Unleashed.
Feel Invincible was the first single to be released from the album back in June. In all aspects it is the typical Skillet track filled with electronic effects and alternating singing lines between John Cooper and Jeni Ledger. The opening guitar riffs and modded key notes have a great punch and the melody in the verses become instantly memorable as does the chorus.
The song does dip a bit when the song title is belted out and then the volume is lowered for the next verse, but it still feels wholly energetic. It turns out that this song was very polarizing for many longtime Skillet fans and I kind of understand why. While it definitely feels like a Skillet song and is energetic, it doesn’t quite capture the same fire the band has had in past years.
While Feel Invincible may be a bit polarizing, there are many tracks on the album that definitely capture the best at what Skillet is capable of bringing. Songs like Back From The Dead, Out of Hell and The Resistence are the highlights of the album in that they are the ones that raise your pulse while showing off what the band is capable of, including some great guitarwork and hooks that make you want to replay a song.
The faster and heavier tracks on Unleashed are the ones that will get the most replay value on the album. Back From The Dead has John Cooper at his strongest and it feels like he is letting loose and having fun with his performance and the guitars add the extra flair to have a song like this stand out as something special.
That being said, there are some tracks on Unleashed like Lions and Watching For Comets that feel a bit more toned down and melodic like ballads. Some of these tracks do break up the flow when placed between more lively songs. That is not a knock on their quality, but rather it takes away from the movement and flow when listening from beginning to end, especially when some of the best material is at the bookends of the album.
Over the years Skillet has proven how hard working they are and that they are dedicated to their fans, and with Unleashed it doesn’t feel like they phoned anything in. But while the album title is Unleashed, there are many moments where the band sounds much more tempered and mellowed. They have matured and are capable of being more serious in a melodic ballad style while in the next moment breaking the door down. Overall, Skillet’s 9th full album should more than satisfy panheads and not be a regretful purchase for anyone who loves the more energetic side of the band. While some songs will definitely be played more than others, there is still more than enough to enjoy in Unleashed.